Thursday, May 9, 2019

Back From The Healing Sleep

Edrin jerked awake. He was on his bed, in his room, but he wasn't sure how long he'd been asleep or why...

"Here," said Father Aylus. "Have some water. There's a bit of juice in it, but only a bit."

Edrin accepted the cup and sipped cautiously at it. Then he drained the whole thing. In addition to being covered in sweat, he was parched. What had he been doing? And why was there a priest -- even a priest whose entire ministry was intended to aid the poor -- in his room? "Father...?"

Father Aylus nodded, took the cup back, and poured more of the enriched water into it. He'd apparently had no qualms about using the pewter pitcher that Edrin kept beside the stove... but then, he'd apparently had no qualms about coming into Edrin's room uninvited, either. Edrin took the cup back and drained it again.

"You only ever help at the mission after dark," said the priest. "By itself, I wouldn't have thought anything of it. But then, Mad Miryen has been so much better since you came: less pain, and thus less anger. So has old Carya. In fact, a lot of people at the mission have been inexplicably feeling better since you came around."

"Are you sure that wasn't your influence?" asked Edrin, then glanced at the faint glow that hovered over the priest's right shoulder. "Or your angel's?"

"After this many years?" Father Aylus chuckled. "Yes, I'm sure. It's not for lack of trying, but my angel is not the strongest and I've never had a knack for healing. No, my son, it wasn't until last night that I thought to associate you with the destruction of that cult of demon-worshippers down in Vecthal..."

"That wasn't me," Edrin protested.

"...or the ones in County Marith last year."

Edrin set his jaw.

Father Aylus just looked at him.

"...That one was," he admitted reluctantly.

"It was really only last night that it all came together for me," said the priest. "When I heard that our local band of thieves, the Redfingers, had been killed -- apparently to a man, despite the fact that they hunted together and chose their targets carefully. And that whoever had killed them was nowhere to be found, alive or dead. There was just a hint of the supernatural about the whole thing, and it made me wonder... well, what sort of person might have managed to fight off six armed attackers while carrying no weapons, and wouldn't wait for any sort of recognition afterwards?"

There was no point in dissembling, and anyway Edrin like the old priest and thought he deserved an honest answer: "The sort of person who can call weapons out of thin air and knows how to use them. The sort of person the Church considers a heretic, an outcast, and a defiler, and will cheerfully hunt down on sight."

"Exactly," Father Aylus smiled. "So I came to your room here, and... well... I'm sorry to say this, my son, but you weren't as discreet as you could have been. There was a trail of blood down the hall, into your door, and right up to your bed. And yet here you are, awake again after a day's sleep, with nothing but perhaps a few scars to show for it. It was the sleep that gave it away, really."

Edrin drew a breath and let it go; he really couldn't think of anything to say.

"I cleaned the blood," Father Aylus said. "I didn't want anyone else to know."

Edrin tilted his head, looking cautiously at the older man. "So what do you want?"

"I want your help, of course. You've been working with the mission for two months, now. I daresay you have a decent idea of how much money -- or how little -- we take in, and where it goes. So you know I'm honest about it. I'll even show you the books if you like, though I suppose a good swindler would have a second set of books prepared."

"...Sometimes," muttered Edrin. He looked up, meeting the priest's eyes. "It's often more complicated than that." Then he frowned again. "But why would you work with me?"

The older man lowered his head in acknowledgement. "Yes, yes, I know. You're one of the fallen, a dark templar, an ash knight. But I also know about Cardinal Orbash's connections with the bankers, the lords, and the Archon. For someone forbidden by his vows to hold more property or wealth than he needs, he lives in a very nice house and eats well at every meal. His friends see to his comforts, and he uses his influence on their behalf... and frankly, I'm tired of it. I'd like to see him shown that his pride, his vanity, his greed... is a sin. If you'll permit me to speak as a man rather than a priest, I'd like to see him taken down."

"And what do you think I can do about that?" Edrin made the question sincere. "If you know what I am, you know that holy ground burns me just as daylight does."

"I do," answered Father Aylus. "But I also know about the Bishop of Tulwin, and the priests in Bettermore and Niceras, and I suspect you have ways to work around that."

"...I'm a little uncomfortable with how well-informed you are," said Edrin, "but all right: I'll help."

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